Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Gathering and Prepping Pine Cones

My girls used to love to gather pine cones in fall.  There is just something so beautiful about them.  The shapes, the size and the fact that they are plentiful in New England all make for great pine cone hunting! 
Pine cones come in many shapes and sizes -- the tiny adorable ones and the lone pointy ones.... All are great.  And all are great for projects.  They make great decorations and can be dolled up for a fun craft or left as is for a natural outdoor decoration. But, they must be treated first. (You could always purchase pine cones at a store or online if you want to avoid this step.)
To save them and use them indoors, they should be treated to rid them of bugs, needles, sap and seeds.  It is easy enough to do treat them and there are even a few different methods that you can use.
The first method involves heating them in a slow oven.  I have done this method and it is fairly easy.  It is best to do this soon after gathering the pine cones, as the sap continues to run out of the cones when they sit untreated and mess ensues.   Preheat an oven to 190 degrees.  Line a baking pan with aluminum foil or use a disposable aluminum pan.  Line the pan with parchment to prevent the cone from sticking.
Place the pine cones on the lined baking sheet, leaving plenty of space between them. Bake for 35 minutes.  Remove tray from oven and let cook.
Do not leave the oven unsupervised in case it smokes -- I have not had this happen, but have heard the warnings.  Also, the oven will really smell like pine!  If you like this smell, it is glorious. 
The second method uses hot water and vinegar.  Fill the sink halfway with warm water.  Add 1 cup vinegar.  Soak the pine cones for 30 minutes.  Gently swish around occasionally and drain.  Repeat if any sap remains.  Then place the wet pinecones on folded paper bags and let dry. Place in a dry place - mudroom, laundry room or garage and let dry 3 - 4 days.  The cones will open up once dry.  I have not used this method, only the heat method.  
 Gathering pine cones in a basket.
 Cones in a basket look beautiful as is, but be careful about bringing them inside as they are full of bugs and sap.
Heating the pine cones in the oven will melt the sap and open the pine cones.

I will post some pine cone projects so you can use the cones you gathered!

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